Hazleton City Authority worried about Francis E. Walter Dam study

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(WBRE/WYOU) — There is growing concern over the future of the Francis E. Walter Dam.

Some fear water from the dam and the Lehigh River will be diverted for use in New York City. A meeting will be held Thursday night about a controversial study on the issue. The I-Team’s Andy Mehalshick has more about this still-developing story with a different perspective.

There are so many unanswered questions about what this study is all about and how the results of that study could impact northeastern Pennsylvania. The managers of one of our region’s largest water suppliers fear it could have a negative impact on how much water they will have to serve their customers.

“It would put us back in a position where we could have to restrict water and that kind of thing to our customers,” Randy Cahalan, director of operations for the Hazleton City Authority, said.

That’s what Cahalan says could happen if the Hazleton City Authority would be restricted in the amount of water it could take from the Lehigh River near the Francis E. Walter Dam. The Authority provides water to some 45,000 people in 13 communities in Carbon, Schuylkill, and Luzerne Counties.

“So we use that pump station during dry periods for the last 20 years now. It”s brought us through droughts and dry periods so it would be a real concern if we can’t use that river at certain times,” Cahalan said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, and the Delaware River Basin Commission have launched a re-evaluation study on the dam that could divert the water from the Lehigh River to the area of Trenton, New Jersey to alleviate New York City drinking water concerns.

“This is very important. This could have a dramatic impact, a negative impact on the business community with the communities of northeastern Pennsylvania,” Senator John Yudichak said.

Yudichak says he does not want, in his words, northeastern Pennsylvania to be strong-armed by outside forces.

“We have a regional compact and this should be a regional discussion. I’m concerned that this study is being driven by New York City and it is about serving nine million water customers in New York City. I want to be a good neighbor but I don’t want to hurt northeastern Pennsylvania. I’m going to fight any action that hurts northeastern Pennsylvania,” Yudichak said.

The study of the Francis E. Walter Dam is expected to be completed in 2022. Organizers of the study say they want to hear from the public that there is no predetermined outcome.

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